MMFF review: 'Magikland' serves a visual effects feast

Fred Hawson

Posted at Dec 29 2020 11:44 AM

A scene from 'Magikland'

It was Christmas Eve. Boy (Migs Cuaderno) was spending that night in the hospital because his mom (Jaclyn Jose) was dying. Sisters Mara (Elijah Alejo) and Kit (Princess Rabara) were eating Christmas dinner with their parents (Audie Gemora and Maricel Laxa) who had long been separated. Pat (Joshua Eugenio) was a street urchin who picked up a stolen cellphone.

While playing the special edition of the very popular mobile game 'Magikland" for that night, these four kids got together at one spot where they were forced to jump into a vortex that led them to the real Magikland. The evil Mogrodo-Or (Jaime Zabarte) was poised to take over the whole kingdom from the embattled Princess Diya (Hailey Mendez). 

The four kids were told by the wise Mama Mandalagan (Bibeth Orteza) that they were the four warriors destined to save Magikland. They were instructed to go out together and complete four different tasks for them to earn the four essential magic weapons (breastplate, bracelet, hammer and sword) which they will need to defeat Mogrodo-Or. 

"Magikland" was the third fantasy-adventure film for kids created by the team of the late Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, following "Magic Temple" (1996) and "Magic Kingdom" (1997). It was inspired by a theme park called Magikland, located in Silay City, Negros Occidental, which featured elements of Negros myths, like the four main warriors in this story: Boy Bakunawa, Mara Marapara, Pat Patag and Kit Kanlaon.

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The whole film was a feat of visual effects technology, very advanced for the Philippine setting. The live action elements were merged with the digitally-animated landscapes and creatures cleaner and more seamless than they ever were before in a Filipino movie. That long final fight sequence between Mogrodo-Or and the four kid warriors was a climactic highlight that brought all these various aspects together spectacularly. It is too bad that this P100-million work could not be appreciated on the big screen given current restrictions.

The four lead child actors Cuaderno, Alejo, Rabara and Eugenio all did their roles well, both in the emotional and action scenes. During their perilous adventure in Magikland, the kid heroes learn important lessons about friendship, selflessness, bravery, cooperation and loyalty along the way -- valuable virtues the filmmakers want to impart to their very young audience. Too bad they did not go back to address an issue they raised at the beginning of the film, about the kids being too addicted to playing mobile games on their phones. 

However, the acting of the adult cast, including the celebrity cameos (Rowell Santiago, Jackie Lou Blanco, Noel Trinidad, Cherie Gil, Paolo Contis, Mylene Dizon, Wilma Doesnt, etc.) came across as too old-fashioned, corny even. The main villain Mogrod-Or was miscast, and should have been more menacing. Those white ape-like men with long arms and those purple Kabayoyong unicorns were too silly. Granted that this movie is targeted for children less than 10, but director Christian Acuna could have pushed the envelope more to fit how this generation of kids like their movies nowadays, not back in the 1990s.

"Magikland" was nominated in 12 categories for the MMFF 2020 awards night, namely Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress (Orteza), Gatpuno Cultural Award, FPJ Memorial Award, Cinematography (Rody Lacap), Editing, Production Design, Sound, Original Score (Emerzon Texon), Theme Song ("Smile" by Emerzon Texon) and Visual Effects (Central Digital Lab). 

PS: There was a short beautifully-crafted mid-credits scene which served as a moving tribute to the filmmaker who conceived of this fantasy world -- Peque Gallaga (1943-2020).

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."

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